The second I met him, I knew I was damned. But still, I couldn’t resist. I melted into his chocolate brown eyes, the hopeless lump of sugar that I was. Nothing lasts forever… especially not something this beautiful. I took it slow, devouring every precious moment, savouring every drop like it was the last. When it ended, that was all I remembered. I was hurt, burnt and broken, yet I longed for more.
“Aboli! Finish your cup of tea quickly! We have to go-“
Sorry I got a little lost. I was just daydreaming, staring mistily into my daily cup of chai. To tell you all the truth, I’m a traitor to all the chai fans. 16 years of my life, coffee was my bff. I could chug lattes down like it was no one’s business. My Starbucks cup was my Oscar, proving how #coffeegram my day was.
But then one beautiful monsoon evening, when my lungs had sneezed their way to Dormammu, my grandma brewed me a hot cuppa of gorgeous ginger tea. It was like the heavens had designed this concoction especially just for me. What followed were a series of fascinating illnesses, the likes of which had never been heard before, and that invariably ended up with a cup of that devilishly gorgeous liquid. What followed soon after was definitely Ajji’s fault.
Throughout college, school, endless submissions and exam menaces, my cup of chai was my solace. I and my friends would go out for maggi and chai, on those blue Mondays, each sip restoring our spirits like magic. I especially loved those crazy bun maskas, which were loaded with so much butter that you could sink your teeth in it, made even more scrumptious by dipping generously in chai. Every break became a “tea break”, and we left no stone unturned from the Gupta tea stall in Matunga to Triveni chaha on FC Road.
Just like there are types of people, you come across types of tea in life. First off is the Peppermint tea, a spicy shot of a person, that one friend who has the worst dares up her sleeve and makes sure that you play FSTD every time. Next is Chai Latte, the best friend who’s gonna tell you after 3 hours of makeup that you look like shit, as frankly as possible. Soon after, is the oolong tea, the dreamy jock that is definitely out of your league? Next up is the green tea, the dude who’s going to sleep at 8 and wake up at 5, the one you beg for assignments when you realise the submission’s tomorrow. Did I forget iced tea? This is that cool bouncy bestie who knows the lyrics to every song and has surreal powers on the dance floor. Last but not the least, there’s the good old elaichi chai which is your designated driver, that one responsible baccha whose name you tell your parents first, when they ask you who’s coming to the party.
In India, chai is more than just a beverage. It’s our lifeline. Every part of India has its own way of brewing this drink, from the South Indian masala tea to the aromatic Darjeeling brews. Tea is our way of connecting with our fellow countrymen. At stalls all over the country, you can see a mix of all kinds of people, bonding over their daily treat. Tea unites us; it’s a symbol of our past, a hope for our future. Although the British colonials were accused of inviting the leaves to the party, the essence of chai actually dates back to the Ramayana, from over 2000 years ago. To me, the brown muddy colour takes me back to the earth. Where all life began, where it will end. We were born from the dirt, and shall disintegrate after. The elemental beverage, solemnly taking us back to our roots, flowering into a hearty aroma, finally bearing the fruits of delight.
Speaking of the future, have you tried this ridiculous new fad called Tandoori chai? Just like a true tea lover, I too thought condescendingly of this utterly disrespectful usurper. But one day, my parents forced me to stop acting like a 112 year old sloth, and dragged me to the stall. And just like that, with just one sip, it started all over again. That smile and those chocolate brown eyes…